Colleen McCullough’s The Touch: A Novel is not her best. But it’s still great. A sequel to Morgan’s Run which chronicles fictional characters at the time of the initial settlement of Australia, this book looks at Australia at the end of the 1800’s.
As always Ms. McCullogh describes the times; the advent of the steam engine and the hint of the coming gasoline engine; the rise of labor as a political force; the life styles and challenges of the poor, working class, and the wealthy; and white male suppression of women and minorities.
Layered over the historical dissertation is a flawed family that provides emotional flesh and bones to the story.
Alexander hates his step father and the local clergyman who try to beat him down. He leaves home at a young age to find his fortune. He finds gold in Australia and sends money to his hated uncle to buy his cousin Elizabeths hand in marriage. He treats Elizabeth like a possession and ruins any possibility that she will ever love him.
Rejected by his wife, he continues a pre existing relationship with Ruby who runs a bar and house of ill repute. Elizabeth and Ruby become best friends in spite of what others think. In Ruby’s son Lee, Alexander sees the son and heir that he wants.
As complicated as it sounds, it is far more complex in actuality. The family finds itself challenged by a disabled daughter, a second daughter is brilliant but considered flawed because of her sex, unwanted pregnancies, adultery, conflicting family politics and secrets. It is the secrets that seem to rule them, causing them to take actions that are both selfish and self sacrificing.
M. Louis is the author of the Jake Brand PI series. Sign up and get a free copy of book 1, Angel’s Devil rated 4.6 stars on Amazon. Secondhand Smoke (Book 2) is now available. It’s free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers / 2.99 for ebook.